Monday, January 3, 2011

The 9th Day of Christmas: A Wallflower Christmas by Lisa Kleypas

The Magic of Christmas begins under the Mistletoe!

Author Lisa Kleypas invites you to spend the holidays with the Walolflowers--four young London ladies who finally found the men of their dreams . . . and will join together once more to help the world's most notorious rogue meet his match.

Rafe Bowman (Lillian & Daisy Bowman's older brother) has just arrived from America for his arranged meeting with Natalie, the very proper and beautiful daughter of Lady and Lord Blandford. His chiseled g ood looks and imposing physique are sure to impress her lady-in-waiting, and if it weren't for his shocking American ways and wild reputation, her hand would already be guaranteed. Before the courtship can begin, Rafe realizes he must learn the rules of London society. But when four former Wallflowers try their hand at matchmaking, no one knows what will happen.

Winning a bride turns out to be more complicated than Rafe had anticipated, especially for a man accustomed to getting anything he wants. However, Christmas works in the most unexpected ways, changing a cynic to a romantic . . . and inspiring passion in the most timid of hearts.

Lillian & Daisy Bowman's brother is now in England, seeking to consummate an engagement with the daughter of a willing aristocrat, a bride chosen for him by his overbearing and controlling father. In fact, if he doesn't see fit to follow through with Lady Natalie, he will forfeit his inheritance and his place in his father's commercial empire. Lillian & Daisy work hard to give their brother some English polish and to help him to respond in social situations according to English expectations and not the American norm. Yet he is not looking for a love match like his sisters' marriages. He finds Natalie to be pleasant and is willing to move forward, expecting that they will "rub along" passably well. That is, until he encounters the abrasive and outspoken Hannah, Natalie's cousin and companion, a woman who sees herself as "less than" and plain, a poor relation that is fortunate to have been elevated to her position in Natalie's household. Instead of a woman who is willing to agree with anything he might say, Hannah is a woman of intelligence and who is unafraid and not intimidated by a wealthy rogue. Her censure of his lifestyle certainly caught his attention to a far greater degree than he expected.

This is a delightful holiday story that seems to bring a lovely conclusion to the Wallflower series. Set in a holiday "house party" that was common in Victorian England, all the Wallflowers were present as they were Lillian's best friends and having a sensitivity to other women who were treated as social wallflowers, they were able to tutor not only their brother in his social skills but they took Hannah under their wing, making her shine in her true brilliance.

The fun of the Christmas season during that historical period is very evident in the flow and context of the story. The fun of trimming a Christmas tree when they were not a common tradition at that time was historically correct, and the general activity that goes on during those kinds of social gatherings were a delightful context for this lovely story. It was engaging for me, as I loved this series in the first place, to read the story of another Bowman, one who himself was out of step with the English social scene, and a young man who needed to find his own life priorities one way or another.

The holidays have always represented a time of hope, of new discoveries, and certainly a sense of kindness and open-hearted giving of one's worldly goods as well as one's respect and regard. This story certainly embraces those concepts and highlights that in a society that was terribly self-serving and self-centered, kindness, gentleness, respect, and personal regard were still alive and well. I give this story a rating of 4 out of 5.

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